Leave out unimportant date references.

In this first tip for 2013, we discuss references to dates in briefs and other documents.  Specifying the date on which something happened suggests to your reader that the date is important.  And sometimes, dates are important, e.g.,

  • This lawsuit is not barred by the two-year statute of limitations.  On January 25, 2011, Sam Smith’s car struck Sally Jones as she was crossing the street.  Jones filed this lawsuit on January 9, 2013.  It is not, therefore, barred by the statute of limitations.

But usually the specific date on which something happened just doesn’t matter, and references to dates will only mislead and annoy your reader—who expects that the date’s significance will be made clear at some point.  When it instead becomes clear that the date was irrelevant, your reader will wonder why you wasted her time.  Furthermore, numerous date references interfere with the flow of your story.  Consider this example:

  • On March 1, 2008, Sally Jones began working at Columbia Industries.  On August 2, 2008, Sam Smith became Jones’s supervisor.  Jones and Smith had confrontations on November 9, 13, and 15, 2008.  Jones’s employment was terminated on December 1, 2008.  On January 9, 2009, Jones filed an employment complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.  BOLI’s investigation concluded on February 23, 2009, with a finding of no discrimination.  Jones filed this lawsuit on August 3, 2009.  Now, Smith argues that the lawsuit should be dismissed because of BOLI’s no-discrimination finding.

As you can see, the point of this paragraph is that BOLI’s no-discrimination finding is fatal to the lawsuit.  So why all the date references?  They are unnecessary, and bog down the story.  Consider this revision:

  • In March 2008, Sally Jones began working at Columbia Industries.  A few months later, Sam Smith became Jones’s supervisor.  Jones and Smith had confrontations shortly thereafter, and Jones’s employment was terminated.  In January 2009, Jones filed an employment complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.  BOLI’s investigation concluded with a finding of no discrimination.  Jones then filed this lawsuit.  Now, Smith argues that the lawsuit should be dismissed because of BOLI’s no-discrimination finding.

As you can see, instead of cluttering your story with meaningless dates, you can use relative time references—such as “later,” “after,” and “then”—to link events and tell the story.  That allows you to present the story in chronological fashion without bogging it down and annoying your reader. 

That is all for now …

1 Comment

Filed under Style

One response to “Leave out unimportant date references.

  1. Kaleen Deatherage

    Nice Scribe, nice!

    Kaleen Deatherage

    Executive Director

    Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp

    10725 SW Barbur Blvd., Suite 50

    Portland, OR 97219

    p. 971.230.2920 | f. 503.452.0062

    http://www.mhkc.org

    Join us for THE MOST FUN MHKC EVENT YET: PROM . April 13, 2013 at the Red Lion at Jantzen Beach. For sponsorship opportunities, to reserve your tickets, purchase a table, or donate auction items visit the auction webpage or call 503.452.7416.

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